Virtual Kidnap Latest Crime Wave in Mexico

Crooks claim to have kids; terrified parents pay up
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 29, 2008 6:02 AM CDT
A new trend, dubbed "virtual kidnapping," is on the rise in Mexico. Residents will receive a call from a person pretending to be a family member held for ransom, and will be asked to quickly pay up.    (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
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(Newser) – Mexican crooks are putting a new twist on an old crime with "virtual kidnapping," the New York Times reports. The criminals are cashing in on the widespread fear of kidnapping by calling families and pretending to have snatched a loved one—usually a child—for ransom. Many panicked parents pay up before they realize that their loved one is safe.

Often, the parents can hear a child in the background crying. A hotline for victims of "virtual kidnapping" has had over 30,000 calls in three months. “This reflects the fear in Mexican society, the collective psychosis about kidnapping,” said one journalist, who fell victim to the crime herself. “If you think there’s any chance that it’s your child, you play along.”